Oil in the dumps, Mark Cuban unloads on FCC morons

Oil in the dumps, Mark Cuban unloads on FCC morons

Market backs and fills again today in light trading, confused by too much news all at once.

FCC Cartoon, Branco.
The FCC: Another bureaucracy looking to grow at our expense and inconvenience. (Cartoon by Branco, reprinted with permission. See below*.)

WASHINGTON, February 19, 2015 – Our report will be pretty brief today, since we don’t have a whole lot more productive things to say than we did earlier in the week.

Greece and the EU are uncertain, Russia vs. Ukraine is uncertain, the yo-yo-ing price of crude oil is uncertain, and the Federal government is either uncertain or completely incompetent. So what’s an investor to do? Given the contracting volume of trading on Wall Street, the answer from traders seems to be: We’ll just sit on our hands for now.

The Maven’s small position in ERX—the leveraged bullish ETF for energy that more or less moves at triple the commodity price—was slaughtered this morning, killing a chunk of our main portfolio. But then, all of a sudden, oil came back this afternoon, so we’re now only modestly off after that earlier scare. What, are the machines just backing and filling for the kind of fun and profit us little guys can’t capture?

Mark Cuban of ABC's "Shark Tank."
Mark Cuban of ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (Screen shot, via ABC’s series web site.)

Meanwhile, on other fronts: We’ve been reading with dismay for at least two weeks about how the FCC plans to regulate the Internet, apparently kind of like our telephones. Funny thing is, the Internet has been working just fine for years without these clowns, and it will work just as well tomorrow.

But that has never deterred the 21st century’s unelected bureaucrats from stealing more and more of our citizens’ freedoms and free choices by unilaterally and illegally choosing to regulate this, that and everything else. Which, not coincidentally, is how government grows and more people get promoted to department head—along with much higher taxpayer supported salaries and benefits.

“Net Neutrality” is just another Newspeak or Washingtonspeak term that’s meant to sound absolutely positive and wonderful even as it eats away America’s guts undetected. Sort of like the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA), aka Obamacare, which, of course, is turning out to be far from affordable for those who still manage to remain inside this country’s shrinking middle class.

Thank God we’ve still got a few independent-minded American tycoons around who haven’t been co-opted by the Democrats’ Communist operatives and aren’t afraid to speak out against the sclerotic, overreaching modern hydra that our Federal government has lately become.

Writing for CNBC today, Dawn Chmielewski reports that

“Billionaire investor and ABC ‘Shark Tank’ star Mark Cuban unloaded on the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to fundamentally change how it oversees the open Internet.

“‘That will f*** everything up,’ said the voluble Cuban in remarks Wednesday at the Code/Media conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Calif.”

Hey, Mark, why don’t you tell us what you really think. Actually, the Maven himself couldn’t have put this more diplomatically. And love that snarky “fundamentally change” reference, Dawn.

Chmielewski’s report pinches in on just what’s going on, something the financial media have generally seemed uninterested in reporting.

“In early February, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed tough new rules for Internet lines that would prohibit wired and wireless broadband providers from collecting payment to cut to the front of the line, or blocking and throttling lawful content and services.

“Cuban said this bid to significantly expand the agency’s authority to regulate broadband providers is nothing more than an attack on giant media companies like Comcast.

“‘Net neutrality is just a demonization of big companies,’ Cuban said.”

Right again, Mark. Frankly, the Maven doesn’t have much sympathy for any of the players in the Internet and entertainment industries either. But the very greed of Hollywood, cable TV and Internet providers is actually forcing change within the entire business—and without any need at all for government regulation.

Cable TV is grossly overpriced at this point, often forcing consumers to buy channel packages they simply don’t want or need. Meanwhile, streaming entertainment companies like Netflix are doing an end run, allowing unlimited downloads of entertainment products for what, up until now at least, have been fairly reasonable fees—and without tons of ads, either.

Entertainment and communication monopolies are slowly breaking up because of the continuing free competition for business. And, if the price for this competition is that outfits like Netflix do end up having to pay a bit more for hogging ISP’s bandwidth, so be it. Netflix isn’t laying down any fiber or paying for it.

In short, businesses can and will work this one out eventually. We don’t need no stinkin’ bureaucrats, fat Federal pensions, and even more hamstringing of America’s already bamboozled and stymied businesses. They can all work things out for themselves. And if they charge too much, people will find other ways to obtain the product they need. But once the government is involved, you can’t tell them to take a hike. They’ll just tell the IRS to garnish your paycheck until you give.

We feel better already. Thanks for explaining things, Mark.

As for today’s stock prices—God only knows. Looks at this point like this market will close once again slightly down. But the volume has gotten so low this week that it’s hard to read the tea leaves with any confidence.

Which means we’ll be skipping trading tips today. We’ll try again tomorrow—a likely down day given investors’ current terror of going through a possibly negative news weekend without being able to exit positions. A lot of folks just get out of Dodge, metaphorically speaking, each Friday for just that reason. We’ll let you know what’s happening either way tomorrow, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

Unless the FCC is regulating that, too.


*Cartoon by Branco. Reprinted by permission via this citation of ComicallyIncorrect.com.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17